DigiLocal welcomes Sharon Foster JP as new Patron

Sharon is passionate about opportunities for education for children and young people. She has been a school governor and she is also a Trustee of Beira Mozambique Trust, a project of the Southern African Resources Centre.

DigiLocal exists to support marginalised young people in discovering and developing their digital talents. We support communities in hosting free coding clubs for their young people, and provide repurposed laptops for home access to educational online resources.

We are both working to give young people the confidence and opportunities to realise their potential.

In a meeting just after her appointment as High Sheriff of Bristol, we discussed her ambition to focus on young people suspended or excluded from formal education within Bristol. DigiLocal has worked with many of the agencies in place to support young people since we launched in 2015, both supporting community based clubs and through provision of repurposed laptops for home access to online education. There was a lot of connection sharing and idea formulating on how we could work to better support those excluded and suspended young people.

While the absolute number of young people permanently excluded is low, the impact on those young people is undeniably significant. Equally worrying are the large, and rising, number of young people suspended from school for varying periods of time. Once thing the COVID-19 pandemic threw into stark relief was the impact on young people of being excluded from education and social interactions at school.

Bristol is unfortunately well above the national average for suspensions. The data from DfE also indicates that young people from Black African, and / or, those on Free School Meals are disproportionately represented in the suspensions. DigiLocal doesn’t filter attendance by ethnic or social economic background but both identified groups are ones that our clubs are very familiar with.

DigiLocal will be working with Sharon and other partners to try and provide additional educational support for those young people.

We wish Sharon every success as High Sheriff of Bristol and look forward to a long and position partnership for the city region.

The report from CHOPSY, analysing the DfE data for 2021/2022 was used in the above assertions. https://chopsybaby.com/magazine/bristol-school-exclusion-statistics-updated-for-spring-2021-22/ (accessed 18 May 2023, 09:31 UTC+1)

DigiLocal People – James

James began volunteering with DigiLocal in May 2022. He is one of the volunteers supporting young people at Filton Community Centre. You can see the full programme of current clubs on our calendar.

DigiLocal Calendar of club sessions

James’ colleague Elisa with young people at our Filton Club.

We asked James why he spends an hour of his time each week supporting young people as a volunteer mentor with DigiLocal.

With the world changing so quickly around us, it has never been more important to support the young people that will build the society of the future – particularly in understanding how we can make the best of technology and the opportunities and challenges it brings.

There is an obvious focus within the clubs on supporting young people. We know that participating in coding activities helps to develop key problem solving skills and build their resilience. However, it’s also important that our volunteers feel benefit for giving their time. We asked James how he benefited from volunteering.

Along with the fulfilment of contributing to young people’s learning, I believe volunteering is a two-way street with many opportunities for mentors to develop too. For instance, young people often apply incredible creativity to problems and this is particularly true when combined with the technology and coding skillset that DigiLocal provides.

Data from STEM Learning on the benefits of volunteering.

Many leading firms have volunteering programs for their staff. There are lots of opportunities to volunteer with a range of charities, so we were interested to know why James chose DigiLocal.

DigiLocal has been a great fit for me, and I would recommend it highly to anyone in a similar situation – the density of engineering companies close to the DigiLocal hubs in Filton and Patchway particularly make for a very convenient stop on the way home for many. Also, I feel DigiLocal’s focus on placing hubs where they are most needed goes a long way to improving equality and community cohesion in the future.

Volunteering with DigiLocal is a commitment to the young people. Our clubs run every week throughout the year, including holiday periods. We do try and add in external challenges and opportunities to keep things fresh for both young people and volunteers. That long term engagement isn’t always easy to balance with hectic work life and other pressures, so we asked what kept James coming back each week.

For volunteers, DigiLocal offers a great balance between flexibility and structure. New mentors are supported their initial sessions and there are regularly new activities, challenges and themes to follow.

There are always things that go well, and some things that could be improved. We asked James for some of his highlights and lowlights of volunteering.

DigiLocal is all highlight! My only minor feedback as a volunteer would be that the number of young people can vary quite a bit between sessions.

Each club supports up to 10 young people, with at least two volunteers in a session. We send out reminders to parents before each club session and most are very good at letting us know if their young people are unable to attend. We do maintain waiting lists for our popular clubs and if young people don’t attend without giving notice three times, then we offer their place to the next on the list.

DigiLocal People – George

George began volunteering with DigiLocal in April 2018. He supported our weekly club in Yate until the COVID-19 pandemic closed all our in-person clubs. George then joined our move online and supported young people every Thursday evening. For many young people, our clubs were the only educational content they were receiving as many schools were not able to operated online at the start of the pandemic.

George supporting a young person with their Scratch code at Emerson’s Green Library

With the return to in-person clubs, George joined our club at Emerson’s Green. A change in work place meant this was easier for him to make each week.

We asked George why he spends an hour of his time each week supporting young people as a volunteer mentor with DigiLocal.

So the key reason is that I really like being a software developer and learning about computers so helping out the next generation in terms of educating, I am all for it. 

There is great evidence on the benefits of volunteering for those volunteers. DigiLocal works closely with STEM Learning and other volunteering support organisations to ensure our volunteers are fully supported and beneficial to volunteer mentors, as well as those being mentored. The statistics are great, but we wanted to know what George gets out of volunteering with DigiLocal

What I get out of volunteering is a lot of satisfaction!

As I have already mentioned, I really enjoy being a software developer and seeing the young people having a eureka moment in terms of understanding how computers work, gives me satisfaction. 

It is like putting a seed in their mind and watching that seed grow. 

There are lots of opportunities to volunteer, with national organisations as well as smaller local charities like DigiLocal. Why did George choose DigiLocal?

They are local! I was born in Bristol and lived there the most of my life. It was the right choice. 

As noted before, George has been volunteering with DigiLocal since 2018. When volunteers join there’s no formal commitment to keep volunteering for a specific length of time. Our clubs run for as long as we have young people that would like to attend, and volunteers willing to support them. Keeping the club experience fresh and exciting for volunteers over such a long period is a key part of why we try to do at DigiLocal. So what kept George coming back?

It has and still is, a great experience. Truly wonderful working with young people and the other volunteers.  An enjoyable experience. 

Inevitably over such a long volunteering period, there will be many memorable moments. We were keen to hear of a couple that stood out for George in particular.

When a young person ask for assistance after trying to code at home – in a environment of teaching 

Young people showing initiative and going for it. 

There are also, inevitably, times when things don’t go well.

This is a tricky one as it has been really fun. Prior to volunteering at DigiLocal, I have never really worked with young people but everyone is very supportive. I was able to get in the swing of things. 

Supporting the volunteers is a core part of what DigiLocal does to ensure that young people from underrepresented backgrounds have the opportunity to discover and develop their digital talents. We’ll leave the final words to George.

I have been volunteering just over 4 years and it has been nothing but pleasure and will recommend volunteering to anyone to get involved.

George recently spoke about his volunteering on the Laura Rawlings Show, listen below

From left. Laura, Souya, Pandora, John, and George
(BBC Radio Bristol, Laura Rawlings show, 24 July 2022)

DigiLocal People – Souya and Pandora

Souya is a new volunteer with our club in Southmead. Pandora is a young person attending our Southmead club. Both attended our morning with Laura Rawlings at BBC Radio Bristol and you can hear their pieces at the end of this post. We also wanted to give Souya an opportunity to share her thoughts in written form.

From left – Laura, Souya, Pandora, John, George

We started by asking why Souya began volunteering with DigiLocal.

I took advantage of free clubs that were part of the community in my youth such as swimming lessons, sporting initiatives and IT introductory sessions. 

Due to that experience, I feel that it is important to volunteer in clubs that are part of the community and benefit people who may not have the means to access certain opportunities.

I believe it is important to have the representation of people from many walks of life. 

Although I am now a Graduate Civil Engineer I believe we are going into a cyber influenced future so introducing subjects such as coding to young people helps equip and empower them for the future.

All our DigiLocal volunteers work in industry and bring their real-world experience to the clubs. This gives young people the opportunity to see real engineers in action, solving problems alongside the young people. This is obviously a huge benefit for the young people but we wanted to know what Souya got from supporting the young people.

Satisfaction!!! Being able to encourage and facilitate the learning of young people from under-represented backgrounds to get involved in something different inspires me.  Being able to play a small part in a young persons’ learning and development – even if it is just one hour of coding a week provides me with an incredible sense of achievement.

There are lots of charities and groups that rely on their volunteers to bring benefit to their communities. We asked Souya why she choose DigiLocal over the many volunteering options available to her.

At the beginning I didn’t know anything about DigiLocal. I wanted to volunteer at a club that is consistent, was within the engineering or technology sector and was an accessible location so that I could incorporate the volunteering opportunity into my schedule. 

As DigiLocal managed to meet my criteria, I chose to volunteer there.  Now that I know more about it – I wouldn’t want to volunteer anywhere else!

Our clubs run for 1 hour each week. This is quite a large commitment for someone with a busy professional and personal life. We wanted to know what kept Souya coming back to the club each week.

Watching the progression of the young people every week is encouraging and exciting. 

The improvement is gradual but consistent and very evident in how  much their confidence grows from one week to the next.  

I feel  that there is a huge shortage of volunteers and it is important to have the representation of people from many walks of life so I have decided to carry that mantle.

With everything we do there are high lights and low lights. We asked Souya what some of those high lights were.

Watching the young people show their creativity and enthusiasm. 

An example of this is when a young person asks questions which are very different to what is mentioned in the instructions booklet.  Showcasing their abilities.  I am reminded that young people’s minds are open and eager to learn and we should encourage that.

We also asked about the times things don’t quite work out.

Inevitably life gets in the way and I am not able to volunteer all the time.  That is one of the reasons I believe there is a need for volunteers.

If you’d like to volunteer with DigiLocal, check out our volunteering page for more information. You can hear Souya and Pandora talking to Laura on the audio links below:

Souya talking to Laura Rawlings, BBC Radio Bristol, 24 July 2022
Pandora talking to Laura Rawlings, BBC Radio Bristol, 24 July 2022

DigiLocal People – a parent’s perspective

The following note was sent to DigiLocal by Gudrun, Thomas’ mum. We’re very grateful to her for sharing her thoughts and insight into supporting young people to discover their digital talents.

Thomas (left) at the 2019 NASA Space Apps Challenge co-hosted by DigiLocal

Thomas joined DigiLocal in July of 2016, at the age of 9.  We had no computer at home up to this point  and the only exposure he had to computers was at his primary school where 3 children shared a computer during computer lessions.  He saw a coding club in the library and I then found DigiLocal.   His learning curve was so steep thanks to DigiLocal at this time where he learned to code in scratch. 

He went from the bottom of the classs to becoming so good at coding scratch that he was able to run an after school coding Club in his primary school teaching his peers.  It was the most popular after school club during that term.  When he left Primary school he then went back in Year 7 to run the club again, but COVID-19 got in the way and this ended.

Thanks to DigiLocal work at providing recycled computers to children, Thomas now has his own computer at home and his coding skills have progressed on to python and now he has just started learning C.

DigiLocal did not only teach him coding but valuable life skills, confidence and opened his world up to endless possibilities.  Through DigiLocal he has spoken to influential people from the West of England Mayor (Tim Bowles, DigiLocal Celebration 2017), to university engineering professors, and employees from leading manufactures all about his coding aspirations and projects he has collaborated on.  He has learned that his ability is limited only by his own or others skills and as such works hard to learn more and keeps pushing boundaries.  

Coding is not book work, but fun, something he would happily do 24/7. And thanks to the internship opportunity he had at DigiLocal,  he feels confident this is something he could do as a living.

He is currently doing computer science for GCSE along with triple science and Product and Design Technology.  He would not have found a love for coding and working with electronics if it had not been for John and DigiLocal who opened this world up to him.

He and his family would highly recommend DigiLocal  to anyone who has a passion for coding or simply wants to learn more.  The possibilities are endless, the people are amazing and there is no learning just lots and lots of fun!


  • See the full write up of the 2019 NASA Space Apps Challenge here.
  • Thomas also took part in the 2020 NASA Space Apps Challenge (online) and his project BioEnterprise was a Global Nominee from the UK.

DigiLocal People – Rishita & Thomas

DigiLocal is there to give young people the opportunity to discover and develop their digital talents. That generally means they aren’t into gaming or coding. Quite often there isn’t really anyone in their family or social circle that works with technology.

We were interested in why Rishita and Thomas started attending our clubs (other than just because their parents took them).

Rishita at home on her repurposed DigiLocal laptop during COVID-19 Pandemic

The reason why I am attending DigiLocal is that I have wanted to try something new such as coding and have learnt a lot. 


I can’t really remember!! 

I went to the library one day and witnessed a club taking place and was interested in computers. 

Prior to joining the club, I didn’t know much about computers or coding.


The projects are DigiLocal are all supported by written guides for the young people to follow. These give the structure and basic functionality for games and applications. We then encourage young people to continue those frameworks with their own ideas. This is where our volunteer mentors like George and Souya really come into their own, supporting the young people to challenge themselves to make more complex projects and experiment with how far they can take their ideas.

I enjoy starting and finishing new projects  – I feel really happy when it works. 


What I enjoy about attending the sessions is that the sessions are really interactive and I can work independently. It is not like school where I would have to wait until the teacher set out the work and will have to wait until everyone has finished. 

I only ask for help when I need it and there are lots of fun guides. . 

There is no set group to join. So if I find something easy, I can move on to harder stuff. 

With the online sessions-  I am able to do more coding and give me more opportunities. 

Thomas (left) with mentor Gabe and Abdirahman at the NASA Space Apps Challenge 2019

A key part of learning to overcome challenges, of any sort, is being able to enjoy the process of figuring out the answer. Sometimes you can do this alone, but often it’s easier with others (whether they are friends, colleagues, or mentors). It’s also important to set yourself challenges so you keep extending your abilities.

We wanted to know what the young people had found challenging while attending DigiLocal clubs.

What I have found challenging is using multiple windows at once. However, when i do find something challenging, I ask one of the volunteers and we are able to find a solution. 


Personally, I did not find anything challenging/hard. I found it really enjoyable! I tend to make things harder than they actually are.


DigiLocal doesn’t have a set curriculum. Young people follow project guides and learn by doing. While it’s useful to know a particular language (python being very popular at the moment), it’s more important to learn how to think a problem through and recognise core programming concepts to building a solution.

I have learned how to use scratch. 


I have learnt scratch and python. Generally, I have learnt a lot more about coding than before. I did not have a computer at home and only used a computer once a month at school. 


DigiLocal wants to help prepare young people for the world of work after our clubs. We were interested to know what they thought about their future activities after DigiLocal and school.

I want to get into the tech industry and in terms of a job, to be a CEO for a tech company. 


I definitely want to get into coding. Not sure about jobs at the moment. 

Possibly a software engineer or making electronics stuff. 


DigiLocal People – Bakoto

Bakoto began attending our original club at Barton Hill Settlement in 2016. She progressed quickly through our projects and ended up coding in Python before her studies meant she had to step away from weekly club attendance. Through her connections at DigiLocal she secured a work placement with a local Bristol technology firm and went on to study Cyber Security at University.

Bakoto was invited to join DigiLocal as a trustee to benefit from her personal experience as a club attendee, a woman, and a person of colour. It is a major decision to be a charity Trustee and we wanted to know why she accepted the invitation

I am a trustee because I believe it’s a great opportunity for me as a young person who can relate to young people. 

Being a trustee for DigiLocal is great as their aim is to assist people from disadvantaged backgrounds, POC/Black. 

For DigiLocal to be able to give the opportunity to them is a great thing 

We are hugely grateful for the knowledge and experiences that our Trustee bring to the DigiLocal. We also see being a Trustee as an opportunity for individuals to grow and extend their expertise, and to gain new experiences. We were interested in what Bakoto had gained from being a Trustee (for the avoidance of doubt, all Trustees at DigiLocal are unpaid and receive no financial benefit from their Trusteeship).

There are a number of reasons of what i get out of being a trustee,

The first reason is connecting with other younger trustees. By inputting ideas for the club and listening to other people’s ideas, we are able to make something great for the young people.  

Being able to work and assist with other communities is what I also get out of being a trustee. 

An example of this is sending out laptops to young people during the pandemic. 

Bakoto coding a Raspberry Pi at our 2017 Celebration event

As an attendee at DigiLocal, Bakoto completed all our projects along with participating a many special events. Trying new challenges, in a safe environment, is a key part of DigiLocal supporting young young people to achieve their potential. We were interested in which challenges Bakoto remembered in particular.

For me, it was transitioning from scratch to python. This was a good challenge as it developed my skills in the end and was helpful while working on coding for my university course. 

DigiLocal doesn’t have a formal curriculum for young people to follow. We focus on developing problem solving skills and building resilience through our fun and challenging projects. Obviously, we hope that young people are learning, and we wanted to know what Bakoto thought she had learned from her time as an attendee with DigiLocal.

I have learned so much!

For example, I have learned to network and therefore find job opportunities and work experience. 

This has helped me develop my career and has a clear idea on what field to specialise in the future.  

Another example is that I have learned how to programme. 

We are honoured to have Bakoto as a Trustee and wanted to hear a little about her future plans post-DigiLocal.

Following from the previous question, I would like to get into the cyber security field, in particular online safety/e-safety. I would like to help people to protect themselves online. 

More success for DigiLocal young people

DigiLocal is supporting young people to discover and develop their digital talents. We provide young people from under-represented groups in the tech industry with opportunities to develop their problem solving skills and build resilience.

In addition to our weekly community based clubs, we also provide external opportunities such as the European Astro Pi Challenge – Mission Zero.

Mission Zero offers participants up to 19 years old the chance to have their code run on the International Space Station!

External challenges help young people see the real-world application of their club activities. With our support they can, literally in this case, reach for the stars.

Dr John Bradford, CEO, DigiLocal

Teams or individuals write a python program to display a message and take environmental reading on an Astro Pi computer. These messages and readings are displayed to the astronauts as they go about their daily tasks on the ISS.

There are strict requirements that the code run without errors, complete it’s display within 30 seconds, and be efficiently coded.

Each year we support teams of young people to discover and participate in the Mission Zero Challenge. This year we had 6 teams taking part from across Bristol.

“We’ve really enjoyed attending… It’s so much fun. We started using scratch and then moved on to Python, which is more challenging. We specially like the competitions.”

Aycel & Kanzy (aged 11 & 9 yrs)

Each team receives a high quality certificate with a map on the reverse showing where the ISS was when their code ran (and yes, the maps are all different, showing exact times / locations – as you’d expect from a space station)!

About Digilocal

DigiLocal® is an independent registered charity (Reg: 1185746) for the public benefit, to advance the education of young people in the UK from groups that are under-represented within the technology industry, in particular but not exclusively, by supporting free technology clubs. It supports communities to run free tech clubs for their young people. Its mission is to support a tech club for young people with every community in the UK that would like to provide one.

European Astro Pi Challenge

The European Astro Pi Challenge is an ESA Education project run in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It offers students and young people the amazing opportunity to conduct scientific investigations in space by writing computer programs that run on Raspberry Pi computers on board the International Space Station (ISS).

DigiLocal to deliver computers to disadvantaged children during pandemic with funding support from Quartet Coronavirus Response Fund

Digilocal, a Bristol charity charged with supporting young people in learning digital skills, has been awarded a £2,500 grant by the Quartet Coronavirus Response Fund. The grant will support its work to supply laptops to families within Bristol, so that children can have the digital equipment to engage in home learning. 

Rishita on her DigiLocal laptop

Digilocal has been operating in the West of England for the past five years, becoming a charity in 2019. It seeks to bring digital skills to the heart of communities, operating free to attend coding clubs for children within over 14 local community centres. The clubs are run by a team of volunteers, with equipment which is usually transported from site to site throughout the week. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Digilocal has been lending its computers out to children across the region to use for home schooling. The charity has also been running sessions online every weekday evening for children who want to learn coding skills. 

Charity CEO John Bradford commented “Many of the young people who attend our clubs show enormous talent, and develop digital skills really quickly, but with the lock-down many of them have become digitally excluded, not just from our sessions but from the wide variety of online resources available. We instantly recognised the need to get computer equipment out to those households and we are delighted to have helped dozens of local children. We would love to do even more, it’s fantastic to have Quartet support this work.”

The laptop Digilocal provided to Rishita has made a significant contribution towards Rishita’s progress through Python coding and Scratch.’

Rishita’s father

The Quartet Coronavirus Response Fund grant programme aims to support local activities that are helping communities affected by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. It offers local charitable and community organisations emergency funding to support emerging challenges faced within local communities as a result of the continuing threat of Coronavirus.

About Digilocal

DigiLocal® is an independent registered charity (Reg: 1185746) for the public benefit, to advance the education of young people in the UK from groups that are under-represented within the technology industry, in particular but not exclusively, by supporting free technology clubs. It supports communities to run free tech clubs for their young people. Its mission is to support a tech club for young people with every community in the UK that would like to provide one. The charity was founded in 2019, having previously operated as part of the High Tech Bristol and Bath CIC since 2015.

Download .txt Press Release

Download image of Rishita

DigiLocal @ Stockwood Tech Takeover

DigiLocal young people learning how to control Minecraft via Python on a Raspberry Pi 3.

What to do in the half-term? Tech Takeover, of course!

We’ve been working with Nia at the Bristol Libraries Service for some time and were very happy to help support her Tech Takeover day at Stockwood Library on 16 Feb 2017.

Stockwood already runs a very successful CodeClub so I took some Raspberry Pi 3’s along. We soon had kids building games inside Minecraft using the Python API.

All the kids managed to get a working game running, a couple even completed the extra challenges at the end. The guides were all on the Raspberry Pi’s, I was just there to help trouble shoot syntax errors. Although coding is sometimes seen as a solitary activity, there was lots of social interaction with kids helping each other out; usually before I could get around the table to them myself, which is brilliant!

New tech ambassador helping his mum out with Minecraft & Python.

The focus for DigiLocal has always been supporting communities to run their own high quality tech clubs. The engagement from the young people was evident, one young lad stayed for over two hours and was asking for more Python projects (even ones that didn’t involve Minecraft)!

Stockwood Tech Takeover was unusual for us in that it was a single day. DigiLocal is normally a weekly activity in a community centre, library, or youth group. We work in partnership with other providers to provide the diverse communities across the region with regular, high quality, engagement with high tech.